116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Gazette’s Iowa high school football staff pose and answer questions about the current season. See how much Jeff Linder, K.J. Pilcher, Jeff Johnson and Nathan Ford can gain for 4 Downs:
1st & 10: Is this week the best chance for Cedar Rapids Jefferson to get a victory?
Linder: Absolutely. Two of the teams I had penciled as potential wins at the beginning of the season — Ottumwa and Marshalltown — are better than expected. I hate to say the Davenport Central game is “now or never” for the J-Hawks, but it probably is “now or not very likely in 2022.”
Pilcher: Jefferson and Davenport Central are both 0-2. They have been outscored by a combined 230-33 in their four games. The J-Hawks have faced tougher opponents in Cedar Rapids Washington and Iowa City High. The Blue Devils fell to Clinton and DeWitt Central. Wins are not going to be a good gauge of Jefferson’s progress under Ed Miles. If the J-Hawks are going to get one, this is the most likely.
Johnson: Every week is your best chance to get a victory.
Ford: It looks that way. Win or lose, I hope it's a competitive game and a fun night for the kids on both teams — maybe something to build on for Jefferson.
2nd & long: With Independence’s last-second victory over Clear Creek Amana, what is the most exciting finish you remember?
Linder: Probably the most recent down-to-the-wire game I’ve witnessed was last year’s game at Manchester, won by Cedar Rapids Xavier over West Delaware, 23-21, on a stopped 2-point conversion in the final minute. I don’t think I’ve had a finish that equaled what we saw at Independence last week. Count me among those that have seen that play, on replay.
Pilcher: Xavier has had a couple doozies. Remember, Pella beating the Saints in the 2016 state semifinals on a TD pass on the final play. Xavier also erased a 28-point halftime deficit against Iowa City Regina, winning by three on the road thanks to a Dallas Klein 35-yard field goal on the final play. The most exciting finish has to be West Liberty’s 20-14 victory at then-No. 2 ranked Williamsburg in 2020. The Raiders attempted a go-ahead field goal in the waning seconds. The Comets blocked the kick that was scooped up by Lake Newton, who returned it 60 yards for the winning score as time expired. The circumstances and the play made it the most impressive.
Johnson: Wow, so many games over the years. This one off the top of my head. The 2016 Class 3A state playoff semifinals in which Pella scored on the final play of the game, a 20-yard touchdown pass, to beat Cedar Rapids Xavier en route to a championship three-peat.
Ford: My dad and I watched Oskaloosa open its new stadium in 2011 by single-winging its way to a 35-3 first-half lead over Grinnell and decided to bolt to Pella to watch the second half of that game instead. We turned on the radio broadcast on our way and heard Pella start to take a big lead, so we threw up our hands and figured we might as well turn back around. Good thing we did. Grinnell scored the next 35 points to go up three, only for Oskaloosa to win on a 71-yard hook-and-lateral with 13 seconds left. As if that wasn't enough, Grinnell then completed a Hail Mary on the final play ... but was stopped a few yards short of the goal line.
3rd & short: What is your pick for Week 3 Game of the Week?
Linder: The Kingston Stadium game (Cedar Rapids Kennedy vs. Cedar Rapids Washington) is appealing. Dubuque Wahlert at Cedar Rapids Xavier looks a lot more interesting that it did two weeks ago. On a state level, you look to see what the biggie is in Central Iowa, and this week it’s Dowling at Ankeny. West Sioux at Central Lyon/George-Little Rock is a small-school showdown.
Pilcher: Many to choose from this week. Statewide there is Class 4A No. 1 Ankeny vs. No. 4 West Des Moines Dowling and 2A second-ranked Central Lyon/G-LR and 1A No. 1 West Sioux. In the Gazette area, look no further than Solon and Williamsburg. The Spartans are coming off a surprise loss to Mount Vernon. The Raiders have notched impressive victories over Regina and Van Meter, snapping the Bulldogs’ 60-game regular-season win streak. Washington and Kennedy has potential as well.
Johnson: A lot of really good stuff out there Friday night. If I’m limited to one, I’ll say Williamsburg and Solon. Can the Raiders survive the early-season schedule gauntlet undefeated? Can Solon rebound from its loss last week to rival Mount Vernon?
Ford: I can't wait to see how Central Lyon/George Little Rock vs. West Sioux plays out. There are a bunch of candidates in the area, too, the Kennedy-Washington rivalry of course being one. Xavier vs. Wahlert might be my pick — an interesting game as a breakout Wahlert team gets its toughest test yet.
4th & goal: What high school football player, or players, could benefit most from new NIL opportunities?
Linder: Not being original here, but it’s Ben Kueter from Iowa City High. I’m not sure it’s because of football as much as his summer accomplishments in wrestling. And he’s going to be a Hawkeye.
Pilcher: The short answer is none. A handful of athletes may see some modest boost from it, but in the grand scheme of things the individual gain will be minimal. It will, however, likely benefit those that dangle carrots in front of athletes and their families, causing them to chase unrealistic prizes. Players like City High’s Ben Kueter and Southeast Polk Kadyn Proctor are the exceptions to the rule, but it will still be a short ceiling for rewards.
Johnson: Special players/athletes like Iowa City High’s Ben Kueter and Southeast Polk’s Kadyn Proctor immediately jump to mind.
Ford: Some Montezuma restaurant has an ad script that writes itself waiting. The Braves' Owen Cook sure can cook — 15 touchdowns (fourth in the state) and a state-best 15 PATs. And if there's a breakfast spot in Winthrop looking to sell more pancakes, they know where to find Cody Fox.